For years now, the Colorado Rockies have been looking for a long term solution at catcher. Last offseason’s decision to non-tender Tony Wolters opened the door for both Elias Díaz and Dom Nuñez to take the reins of the position.
The decision to move on from Wolters, who hit for a .239 average with just seven home runs in five seasons with the Rockies, signaled that the Rockies were looking for more power. They gave a shot to Díaz and Nuñez who both profile as catchers with pop.
Unfortunately, neither catcher has performed exceptionally with a bat in their hands. As of today, the Rockies’ catching duo is hitting a combined .157.
Dom Nuñez is hitting .172/.266/.377 with five home runs on the year and is striking out in 38.7% of his at-bats, while whiffing on 38.4% of his swings.
Elias Díaz is hitting .146/.212/.214 with just one home run in over 100 at-bats and has a WRC+ of just 7. This has to be particularly disappointing for the Rockies because Díaz was supposed to be the offensive upgrade from Tony Wolters.
Now, both are catchers so offense rightfully isn’t their top priority. But when a team is struggling as badly as the Rockies are on the road and getting very little from the catching position, it’s fair to begin to wonder what other options there might be.
There aren’t a ton. The Rockies do not have a third catcher on their 40-man roster. In the event of an injury or a continued struggle by either catcher, the only in-house options for the Rockies would be to purchase the contract of either Triple-A catchers Brian Serven, José Briceño or Chris Rabago. Of those three, only Briceño has Major League experience.
In Albuquerque, the man getting the largest share of time in the squat is Brian Serven. The former fifth-round pick in 2016 has been off to a nice start, slashing .250/.300/.484. The issue with bringing him up at some point this season is his inexperience. Right now, Serven is less than 20 games into his first year in Triple-A and rushing him up for whatever reason wouldn’t be optimal for his own development. The same issue is present with Rabago, having only played 25 games at Triple-A in his career. That just leaves Briceño as the lone viable option.
Outside the organization, there are always a couple of veterans holding out for an opportunity but this season there aren’t very many. 35-year-old Matt Wieters was the only name I could find out there as an emergency option for someone.
However, if the Rockies were to move quickly, there’s a promising rookie catcher currently on the waiver wire that deserves a look in a Rockies or at least Isotopes uniform.
Deivy Grullón is a 25-year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic who was designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays last Friday. Grullón is no stranger to being on the waiver wire, this being his fifth time being designated for assignment in less than a year. The good news for him is that teams consistently want him. The bad news is that he has yet to get a real shot in the majors with any of them, playing just four games with the Phillies in 2019 and one game with the Red Sox in 2020.
According to Fangraphs, Grullón has at least one minor league option remaining after this season, so the reason teams are passing him around is probably just a lack of a long term fit.
What keeps intriguing teams about him is what he’s done in the minors. In over 450 Triple-A at-bats, Grullón has slashed .270/.340/.486 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. Defensively, Grullón has been touted as an average catcher with a plus arm and can be a great depth addition for a team that’s lacking just that, like the Rockies.
When in an unofficial rebuilding mode, the focus should be to accumulate as much talent as possible and sift through it. However, since Grullón has been on the wire so often, you would think the Rockies would have already considered him. Perhaps they’ve identified something in his game that turns them off since they keep passing on him.
However, with their catchers at the major league level worth a combined -0.3 fWAR and only one catcher realistically being on the short-list for a call-up, the Rockies should look to infuse the top half of their system with some offense at catcher. A guy like Deivy Grullón could be a welcome addition.
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Rockies interim general manager Bill Schmidt gives his thoughts on the Rockies’ roster and the organization’s strengths. Just for fun, here’s some out of context quotes from Schmidt:
“We’ve drafted and developed as well as anybody in the industry.”
“If we keep Trevor and make the qualifying offer, that was where we took Trevor Story. That’s where we took Nolan Arenado and Ryan McMahon.”
“I can’t speak for last year, but I have confidence in our people...”
An anonymous former Rockies player tells Patrick Saunders that the use of foreign substances is rampant in the game today and that he believes the Rockies are guilty of using it as well. Saunders analyzed the Rox rotation to see if there are any unexplained jumps in rpms. An interesting tidbit included here is Bud Black’s comment about not knowing if any of his guys are using anything.
A moment that might have been lost in the continued road woes of the Rockies was Trevor Story’s answer to whether he wanted to stay with the Rockies.
“We’ll see what happens. It’s tough for me to say right now, but we’ll see.”
On the farm
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 4, Salt Lake Bees 3
In Salt Lake City, the Isotopes won a close contest against the Bees. The charge was led by Rio Ruiz and José Briceño who each collected three hits. Briceño notably hit a clutch go-ahead solo home-run in the top of the eighth that would prove to be the difference. Ryan Castellani threw 4 2⁄3 innings with two earned runs allowed, two walks and seven strikeouts. It’s an impressive win considering the Isotopes went 2-for-12 with RISP.
In Reading, Pennsylvania the Hartford Yard Goats gave one away to the Fightin Phils. The Yard Goats led for the majority of this game until the seventh inning when reliever Reagan Todd gave up the tying run on a walk, double and then an RBI single just before blowing the game open when Jorge Bonifacio hit a three-run home-run off of him to put his team up for good. Starter Karl Kauffmann had a nice night giving up only two earned runs in five innings. However the star of the game for the Yard Goats was unquestionably shortstop Taylor Snyder who hit not one but two home runs to score three of the team’s four runs.
Out west, the Indians just weren’t able to stay in the game very long against the Canadians. Starter Helcris Olivarez was not good last night, allowing nine runs in 4 2⁄3 innings. After scoring six runs in the fourth to take the lead for the Indians, Olivarez almost gave it all back by allowing five runs in the inning immediately after.
Out in very hot Modesto, California, the Grizzlies held on to beat the Nuts. (What kind of nut? It doesn’t say, but their logo looks like a peanut.) Zac Veen had one of his best games as a professional, going 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs, a walk and two stolen bases. Starter Breiling Eusebio was also impressive with six innings of one-run ball and seven strikeouts. Eusebio is now 4-0 and carries a 1.87 ERA and 0.99 WHIP through his first eight starts.
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